Integration through meetings

I meet a lot of people from a lot of different companies looking to fix their company issues by purchasing and implementing a new ERP system. We typically work with people on an Infor product, but this challenge applies to any ERP system. A common, valid issue most struggle with is they don’t have a system, they have systems; and the systems don’t “talk” to each other. They are not integrated.

I probably don’t need to tell you how they overcome this lack of integration. Even though the systems don’t “talk”, people do. So those people get in a room and talk. Their conversations become the integration between the non-integrated systems. And you know what? It actually works. It may not be efficient, but it works. When you have a problem and you find something that works, you usually don’t think about efficiency. You are happy you found something that works so you can move onto the next problem.

Of course, there is a catch: It works so well that the “meeting solution” is applied to many problems. Meetings start consuming too much of the attendees time; so then there are meetings about having more efficient meetings. It never ends…

Meetings are an indication of a bigger problem

Not that those efficient meetings aren’t a good thing; but they are a symptom, not the real problem. The real problem is lack of systems integration. That’s what created the meetings in the first place. The lack of integration is why much of the time in the meeting is spent comparing information in order to find the problems. Then, and only then, can you discuss a solution. It’s common to spend more time finding the problems than discussing the solutions. This is usually when everyone agrees there has to be a better way, and that leads to a new integrated ERP purchase.

Spend time to save time

Successful implementations can and do solve the excessive meeting problem. Typically, you can enter the meeting knowing the problems (thanks integration!) and spend your time finding solutions. That’s a good meeting. If this scenario describes your company, congratulations.

If it doesn’t, I’m going to suggest you have a meeting. Not just one, but on a regular basis. You read that right. I’m suggesting you have a regular meeting to discuss how you can have fewer, more productive meetings. What I’m really talking about is regularly discussing how to improve and streamline your processes.

There is no system that replaces the creative magic that happens when people get together and discuss an issue. I see it happen in every meeting I have with prospects or customers. I see it every time a group of users gets together. After every conference, we get a spike in consulting work from companies finally dealing with a long term problem because they started discussing the problem.

Meeting guidelines

There are some guidelines to follow to make sure your regular meeting about having fewer, more productive meetings stays productive:

  • Invite the right people. You want experts in the room. If it is about an issue that your company doesn’t have expertise in, acknowledge it and bring in an expert from the outside. Yes, it will cost money. But isn’t the issue costing you money already? Wouldn’t a bad solution also cost you money? Couldn’t not solving the issue or coming up with a bad solution cost you more money?
  • Make a decision. The decision could be you don’t have enough data to make a final decision. If that’s the case decide how to get the right data and then do it.
  • Failure actually is an option. Figure out how you are going to track results so you can prove to yourselves you came up with a good idea, or stop a bad idea early. If it turns out to be a bad idea, it just means you discovered a way that doesn’t work. That is valuable information in your quest to find a solution.

Remember, you can’t solve a problem unless you acknowledge the problem. Spend time on a regular basis discussing how to save time. It’s an investment that pays dividends.